One of the most influential voices in British business has backed calls from Yorkshire business leaders for devolved powers.
Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors (IoD), visited Hull and Leeds this week to hear from local business leaders.
“Five per cent of the money raised in Leeds stays in Leeds.
For most European cities it would be 40 per cent. Local people know how to spend money much better than central government,” he said.
“The man in Whitehall really doesn’t know best – those days are well gone.”
Simon was speaking at a Q&A panel debate to mark the official opening of the IoD Hub at Old Broadcasting House in Leeds, a state-of-the-art facility that offers comfortable meeting space, complimentary wifi and refreshments for IoD members in the heart of the city centre.
He was joined on the panel by Nimble Thompson, deputy chairman to the IoD board, Roger Marsh, chair of the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Anthony Knowles, head of employer and delivery services of the Skills Funding Agency.
Roger said: “We have got to be clear about where we are trying to get to. We don’t want decentralisation that is dressed up as devolution. Devolution includes the ability to raise income.
“The genie is out of the bottle. This city region has shown that, with relatively modest amounts of funding, we can deliver results.”
Nimble, a well-known Yorkshire businessman who holds non-executive directorships at Henderson Insurance Brokers and Skipton Building Society, said: “The English people have realised how well the Scottish people are doing.
“What we really want is money that we can deal with ourselves. There is a pressure but don’t expect too much.”
Anthony Knowles said devolution will improve funding for apprenticeships, helping employers to train a skilled workforce.
He added: “We want to drive apprenticeships. The ROI (return on investment) for the government is £28 for every pound invested. The ROI for business is proved too.”
Simon Walker also attended an exclusive Leader’s Lunch in the University of Hull’s historic Staff House.
He became director general of the IoD in October 2011. He was previously chief executive of the BVCA, the organisation that represents British private equity and venture capital.
Earlier in his career he was communications secretary to HM The Queen at Buckingham Palace. He was born in South Africa, and studied at Oxford University.